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Anthrax: Persistence of Time (1990)

June 28, 2013

Anthrax_Persistence_of_Time

Roll: 1-2-17
Album: Anthrax, Persistence of Time

Anthrax‘s fifth album, Persistence of Time (1990), was the very last heavy metal tape I ever bought.

Heading into the ’90s, I eschewed “stupid, meat-head” metal bands for what I considered to be the “intelligent, sophisticated” sounds of college radio rock. You know, the completely not-metal-at-all sounds of bands like Ministry, Godflesh and KMFDM. And rap-metal hybrids, those were okay too for some reason. Grunge bands like Soundgarden and post-hardcore bands like Helmet? Those also passed muster. Totally not metal. Metal is for morons and I was a fine arts major brainiac—ipso facto anything I listened to was not metal.

And my Lard clone band, Neo-Psychotic Mind Rape? Totally not metal. I dunno what you’re talking about. Not metal and not completely juvenile and moronic. No siree.

Anyway, Persistence of Time was also one of the first metal CDs I bought when I started getting back into speed and thrash metal earlier this year. I’m not sure what triggered this specific kind of mid-life crisis. Actually I place all the blame on the For Those About To Rock podcast’s episode on Anthrax’s Worship Music (2011). I think that’s what disturbed the sleeping beast. But however it happened, I awoke one morning with a hunger for all the tapes I owned as a teenager.

banzai logo

The three drawers in the captain’s bed I’d had since childhood didn’t hold clothes, as my mother intended, but cassettes from labels like Combat, RestlessNuclear Blast, Relativity, Metal Blade and Megaforce. Many of these releases were available through Canada’s Banzai Records which (like Fringe Product did with punk) licensed titles not domestically available. Sometimes I’d just look on the spine of a tape and if it sported the Banzai logo, I’d buy it never even having heard of the band before. Banzai was a name you could trust. Just look at this discography.

But by the time Persistence came out just in time for the start of my grad year, I wasn’t much interested in thrash and speed metal anymore. And for good reason. Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer and Exodus had each taken their own idea about how to keep metal relevant in the mid-80’s as far as they could. Metallica would soon go the pop-rock route and Slayer would abandon all traces of melody for the harder-faster-into-oblivion approach the genre was headed.

Perhaps it was the fault of bands that weren’t actually heavy metal (PoisonWarrant) but general audiences were beginning to look at all heavy metal as being a bit silly. And not in the “hip” way that punkers like Circle Jerks were silly. It was really only Anthrax’s hardcore punk cover of Joe Jackson‘s “Got The Time” that made me feel the album was worth my, er… time. The rest was tired and, um… dated.

23 years later, it turns out time has been on Persistence’s side. It sounds fresh, vital and timeless. Anthrax had seamlessly blended hardcore punk with metal since 1985 when they pounded out the pummeling three chord riff of  “A.I.R.” on Spreading The Disease. So it’s no surprise they were able to tailor their latest album to the growing interest in punk-metal bands like D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies while remaining true to a very “heavy metal” approach and aesthetic. Anthrax were riding the wave more successfully than most of their metal brethren, balancing the (sometimes conflicting) needs of moshers and headbangers brilliantly.

Yet it’s a balance they’d completely abandon a few years later in an attempt to mimic the grunge-metal sound of bands like Alice In Chains with The Sound of White Noise (1993). They’d even go as far as to have their management fire Joey Belladonna over the phone so they could hire a gruffer singer. The thrash-metal trailblazers were no longer blazing trails, but jumping wagons going in a different direction—a gambit that never works out for any band with an established fan base.

Which is really too bad because while the public’s taste for grunge faded away pretty quickly, punk and metal never really died.

Listening to Persistence of Time now, I feel like it could have been released in 1990, 2000, or 2013. It wouldn’t matter. The album really is timeless.  But, as is the case with a lot of grunge and industrial records from the era—even the best of which have me reaching for the “stop” button before hitting the two-minute mark when I’m seeking a nostalgic thrill on YouTube—White Noise sounds like it could only have been released in ’93. Maybe ’95 at the latest.

Persistence is raw, heavy and makes me want to turn it up—not off.

Why’d I ever stop listening to this stuff?

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